Thursday, 10 April 2014
Cynthia Lennon tells what she really thinks of Yoko and Neil Sedaka forgets his Toupee....
As far back as I can remember the Beatles had always been part of my musical upbringing. It was 1968, I was walking down London’s Saville Row with Barbara Willoughby, Liz’s younger sister. We must of been in London looking for ideas for the opening of Club Elizabeth, when we came upon a large crowed of excited teenagers standing outside No3 an a immposing 5 story building which I immediately recognised as Apple the Beatles London headquarters: “Let’s go in?” I exclaimed excitedly. “We’ll never get passed the doorman.” Barbara laughed. Standing by the door was a large gentleman kitted out in full livery, apple green coat and top hat. “Don’t worry.” I said; “Just look like were calling in on business, don’t hesitate just walk straight in whilst giving a courteous but not an over friendly nod to the doorman, it always works, trust me.” So we made our way through the crowed of Apple Scruffs (That's what George Harrison christened the fans who hung around the Saville Row building all day. See photo)
We walked up the few steps to the door like strutting peacocks, nodded politely at the 10ft tall doorman as planed and walked straight in without question, it worked like a treat. No sooner had we entered the large apple green carpeted and white walled foyer still not having a clue what we were going to do next than the girl behind the glass reception desk surprised me by calling out; “Hi, Maurice , what are you doing in London?” I couldn’t believe it, I walk into the Beatles headquarters and I’M the one who's recognised! She saw I look confused, gobsmacked was more like it: “I’m Debbie from Dublin I used to go to Sound City where your band The Kingbees played” She explained. I asked were ‘the lads’ in trying to sound cool , she said that Paul was expected any minute and almost on cue in walked Paul McCartney, I nearly dropped dead, what I groupie I was and still am! I was amazed to see his hair was tightly greased back, if I’d past him on the street I'm sure I wouldn’t have recognised him. He invite Barbara and me to take a seat and genuinely seemed interested that we were from Dublin and that we were planning to open Ireland's first discotheque , he was just very chatty and friendly. I noticed he was wearing an elastic band around his wrist, something I have noticed that anytime there is a close up of his hands he’s still wears an elastic band. Someone once told me wearing an elastic band helps break habits i.e if you are trying to stop smoking every time you get the urge pull back the elastic band and let it snap against your wrist giving a small sharp sting, probably an old granny’s tale, but I’ve made a mental note that if I ever meet Paul again I’ll ask him why he wears it. After approximately five minutes Paul sadly bid us farewell and disappeared into the inner sanctum.
No sooner had he left us than the main door burst open and in walked John Lennon, followed by Yoko and Yoko’s daughter Kyoko Cox. John was wearing a maggoty looking fur coat that looked liked he bought in a second hand shop and a pair of runners that looked older than the coat! Yoko didn’t look much different they nodded at us and walked straight through. I just couldn’t believe that I’d just seen John Lennon and had a conversation with Paul McCartney, what’s worse I don’t think anyone else would as we had no camera.
This photo is a great story in its self. As I said, we were so disappointed not to have had a camera to record this historic meeting with Paul and seeing John at such close proximity. When we were leaving the Apple building I noticed one of the Apple Scruffs with a camera I approached her and asked her if she had any photos of John and Yoko entering the building adding that I would be so grateful if she could send me a copy of one. She said she'd be delighted. I gave her my address never expecting to hear from her again. How wrong I was and this is it taken on the very day Barbara and myself were sitting behind that very door. amazing! Thank Ms Scruff where ever you are.)
I mention all this because 30 years on I was waiting in my home in Marbella to welcome Cynthia Lennon the late Beatles ex wife for dinner as she was to be a guest the next day on my TV Show Boland Live... From the very first meeting, Cynthia came across as a charming, warm, and a gently woman. Over dinner she was as easy to chat as she was on the TV show the next day. One of the questions I’m most often asked is; ‘who was my favorited guest on TV or radio?’ Without hesitation I would say Cynthia Lennon was certainly in the top five.
After the show was over we had lunch together. It was whilst having coffee that Cynthia asked me was I a multimillionaire. “Why’s that?” I laughed “Because I noticed whilst you were interviewing me you showed clips from Anthology of the Beatles playing in the Cavern, on their first trip to America and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show,” She went on to say; “That Yoko owns all the rights to those clips and charges £30,000 per second, so you better get your check book out!"
Cynthia opened up more as the afternoon progressed and told me some shocking stories about Yoko. Allegedly in John's will his billion dollar estate was to be split into three equal parts, one part to Yoko, one part to Sean and one part to Julian but only to be divided at Yoko’s discretion. John had been dead 17 years at this stage and all Julian had received was a Jukebox that had stood in one of their homes! I believe most of it has been sorted by now and Julian has received his rightful inheritance. Another shocking story Cynthia related to me was that Yoko had all the rights to the Beatles Anthology the documentary TV series and made sure Cynthia was cut out of all the filmed history of the Beatles, the only reference to her was a shot of her cream leather hat as she stepped off the plane with the Beatles for their first American tour! Just think about that; Cynthia was married to John throughout the whole Beatle phenomena from the early days of the Cavern, through all their recordings, touring, breaking America and Beatlemania, Yoko didn’t appear until all that was over and yet she made sure It looked like Cynthia never existed! That disgusted me and still does. I’m delighted to get this opportunity to yet again tell the true story of Yoko's treatment of Cynthia Lennon.
I feel it's important to point out that Julian is very close to his stepbrother Sean and used to babysit for him when he was a kid and that on the night of the Love premier it was one of the very few occasions Yoko and Cynthia were photographed together.
The final insult for Julian was last December when the Beatles were recipients of the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Awards, Paul was scheduled to play at the ceremony along with Ringo. When Julian called his ‘Uncle Paul’ suggesting that perhaps they could do a duet of one of his late dads songs. Paul rejected the idea out of hand. This really hurt Julian. Message for Paul; ‘You know where you can stick Hey Jude from now on, Where the sun don’t shine!’(Hey Jude was written by Paul for a heartbroken Julian when his dad left his mum, changing the name Julian to Jude)
The other Beatle moment was when I invited Mike McCartney (Paul's younger brother) on my TV Show. Mike, sometimes know as Mike McGear when he was a member of Scaffold the comedy, poetry and music trio from Liverpool, consisting of himself, Roger McGough and John Gorman which had a few hit records, the biggest being Lily The Pink.
The first thing he made abundantly clear was he didn’t want to talk about the Beatles! This set me back a piece, after all I didn’t fly him in to chat about Lily the fucking Pink! I wanted to know about his life with Paul before the Beatles, what was it like being the baby brother of one of the most famous rock stars on the planet, was he ever jealous of big brothers outrageous successes, what was it like growing up in the McCartney household etc. Whilst we were having dinner the night before the show all he kept banging on about was ‘Our Kid'’(Paul) and that the Beatles would never have made it if hadn't been for 'Our Kid' in fact he told me that Scaffold were as big as the Beatles at the time! On and on he went, bullshit after bullshit!
The next day, show day, whilst we were both in makeup, he still kept continually reminding me that there was to be NO Beatle questions and if there were he'd walk off the show! Once the show got under way and I welcomed him onto the set he insisted that HE should sit in the presenters chair whilst I should sit on the guest chair (see photo) before I had a chance to start the interview he started yet again going on and on about ‘Our Kid’ this ‘Our Kid’ that, Beatle this Beatle that in fact he never stopped talking about Paul and the Beatles hardly mentioning Scaffold except to say Lilly The Pink was a bigger seller than any Beatle record. I’m sure it was Mike I’m sure it was!
I was really enjoying this period of my life both on radio and television, it's all I ever wanted. The Boland Radio Show went live Mondays through Fridays from 8pm till 10pm. I would spend the mornings in my home office preparing the evenings show. The first thing I always do, and still do to this day, is take a blank piece of A4 paper and divide it into four sections, then I fill each section with a time slot i.e 8pm, 8:30pm, 9pm amd 9.30pm. These sections are where I write down the guests name placing them in the correct box for their appearance (I'm sorry if this all sounds to technical but I think it's important to realize that the work of a radio presenter is just not the two hours that they're on air. The fact is, is that there is a huge amount of prepping and research beforehand) Next task is to start looking for the evenings celebrity guest, once he or she is confirmed I’d then scour the newspapers to look for good interesting stories and the principle characters connected to them to invite them as guests onto the show. The afternoon is spent researching my confirmed guests stories, when necessary, scripting questions for a particular difficult story. I like to leave my home office around 6ish for the studio, by then I have my guests confirmed, my research notes typed up and even the music chosen to match the guests.
Finding guests, as I've said, isn't as difficult as one my think but there are occasions when I run into trouble in securing a guest. This part of my story relates to one of those occasions:
When I arrived home that evening Wendy informed me that a Debbie Munch from Caesars Palace had called and would like me to call her back as soon as possible. I remember thinking as I dialed her number that I hoped I hadn’t said or done anything to upset her. This is how the conversation went:
D: “Hi Maureeece(that’s how it sounds when an American say’s it)Debbie here”
M: “ Hi Debbie thank you so much for being my guest this evening I really enjoyed the interview, I hope everything went well for you?”
D: “Thank YOU, You were so much fun Maureeeece, I loved the interview and was thinking why not come out to Caesars Palace as our guest and broadcast live from Las Vegas?”
M: “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS?” I replied sounding like a John McEnroe impersonator!
D: “I sure am,” replied an excited Debbie
M: “How would this be possible, what equipment would we need, is it technically possible etc etc?”
D: “ We shoot many famous TV shows at Caesar, only last week an episode of Friends was filmed at the hotel, we’ve been used for location shots on many TV shows and movies, we’ve also done many live radio broadcasts from here. Caesars Palace has over 300 technical staff who have the know how and skills to achieve this, I will help you find your guests , Las Vegas as you can imagine is full of celebs and people I know you would love to interview. So what do you say?”
M: I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: “So when do you want me, how many days for?”
D: I suggest you fly out on a Friday, that will give you the weekend to get over jet lag and settle in, then on Monday start your 2 hour live broadcast finishing on the Friday. Take the weekend to relax and then fly home. We will arrange a limousine to pick you up from your flight. The hotel will be delighted to give you one of the luxury suits which are located on the 22nd floor of our spectacular new wing with stunning views of the Las Vegas strip, we will also include all food and beverages, so Maureeeece are you coming are not?”
M: “I’m packing as we speak!”
Within in two weeks from Debbie's invite I was sitting on board a Virgin Atlantic 747 drinking champagne in the Upper Class lounge as we jetted into Las Vegas's McCarron International Airport and true to her word, there was the longest stretch limo I had ever seen waiting to transport me to my hotel. It was all so surreal as was my suit which had two bathrooms, a dining area, a number of large sofas and a bed big enough for a family of four!
We lunched at Wolfgang Puck’s famous Spago restaurant. Debbie explained that she had plenty of guests lined up already for my shows including Neil Sedaka, Gladys Knight and many of the headliners from other hotels including Earth Wind and Fire, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Hughie Lewis, Buddy Grecco, Robert Goulet, Otis Williams and the Temptations, Lorna Luft (Liza Minnelli’s sister) Evil Kenievil, many more. What a guest list! I just couldn't believe this was all happening. After lunch Debbie asked me to follow her out to the front of the hotel as she had a surprise for me. We walked out into the blazing afternoon sun when she asked me to look around and see if I noticed anything unusual. I had to admit I didn't at first until she asked me to look up at Caesar's icon show sign and this is what I saw.You can imagine my reaction!
I came down for breakfast at 8 am on the Monday morning. The show was to go live at 11am that is 8pm Spanish time. I had to meet a guy called Jeff and he'd talk me through everything. Howard Brerton back in the OCI studios in Marbella and had run a successful link test with Jeff last Friday so I knew in advance that all worked. Over breakfast Jeff explained how the technical side of the show would work, that in fact I didn’t have to do anything but use the microphone, he would produce the rest. What a luxury, after so many years doing everything from presenting, producing, playing the music and answering the phones etc now at last I will have a producer. After breakfast we walked to the place where the studio equipment had been set up, it was a bar that was closed during the day and sitting in the middle was a rack of amplifiers, mixing desk, a table set with four state of the art microphones, a presenters chair and four guest chairs. It was then I noticed rows of chairs that had been set up in front of my guest table, I asked Jeff what they were for? He told me that there had been posters placed around the hotel announcing all the guests who will be appearing on my show during the week, so Debbie thought it a good idea to let an audience watch how you broadcast your show. I was getting to like this more and more. I picked up a pair of headphones attached to the mixing desk, put them on and there as clear as a bell was OCI's Julie Thomosoro speaking live on her show in Marbella, it’s as if she was in the next room! I cannot remember which guests where on which days but I know the Debbie was my first guest, followed by one of the hundred cocktail barmen who would make up one of their famous Caesars cocktails for me to sample, I was also to be joined by one of their many top chefs who also would bring me some of their exotic foods for me to sample. By 10am a crew of waiters rolled in a large buffet table and laid out a breakfast banquet fit for a king. Jeff told me this was for the guests to snack on whilst they waited to go on air! Only in America!
Instead of trying to remember each days running order I will highlight the interviews I remember best for one reason or another. I’ll start with Neil Sedaka (See Photo, Neil Looks like he's in a wheelchair and we're doing an American version of Little Britain!), I’ve always been a huge fan of his so I can’t tell you how excited I was when it was confirmed he was to be one my guest. Neil arrived looking very sporting in a track suit top and baseball cap. As he sat down for the interview he removed his cap before putting on the headphones. I noticed throughout the interview his eyes were darting everywhere but on me! It was only afterwards Debbie told me that Neil wears a toupee but wasn’t wearing it under his baseball cap that morning, so when he took off the cap to put the headphones on he noticed the hotel photographer snapping away and didn’t want ANY photographs of him going public without his toupee. Debbie had assured him that the film would be destroyed and Neil seemed happy enough with that, in fact we had a long lunch together and that night he invited me to his show at the Orleans as one of his VIP guests, what a show it was, from the very minuet he stepped on stage starting with Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Calendar Girl, Is this the Way to Amarillo to Braking up is Hard to Do and Solitaire. He had the audience dancing in the aisles and singing along to everyone of his iconic hits. One of the outstanding moments for me was when he performed the operatic Nessun Dorma, I’m sure Pavarotti would have been impressed. By the way Neil looked better without the toupee. I was amazed at just how many hotel guests jammed into the bar to watch the show, whooping and clapping for every guest. Yes sir, I like Las Vegas.
To be Continued......
Coming up next in Chapter 19: My very embarrassing moment with Martha Reeves when she almost walked out of the studio. Paul Anka refusing to come on my show until I told him a little white lie, Jay Leno giving me the greatest put down of all time.